United Kingdom

‘I hate so much hate in me’

Thirty years ago, U.K. soulful post-punks Dexys Midnight Runners, now simply known as Dexys, were catapulted to unlikely MTV pop stardom when their skiffle-inflected banjo jam “Come on Eileen” became one of the biggest hits of 1983. “We were always trying to look and sound different. We didn’t look like Duran Duran,” the band’s Kevin Rowland chuckles, speaking with Yahoo Entertainment ahead of the first Dexys studio album in 11 years, The Feminine Divine.

The new Dexy LP is a fascinatingly vulnerable and confessional chronicle of the now 69-year-old Rowland’s journey of self-discovery regarding gender roles, his previous deeply internalized misogyny, and sexual expression. But that all ties into “Come on Eileen” in a way, as that beloved track from 1982’s Too-Rye-Ay was inspired by the “Catholic guilt” Rowland grappled with during his religious upbringing in repressive ‘50s/’60s Britain.

“I never had any sexual education — as in none,” explains Rowland, who says that song’s titular pretty-red-dress-wearing character was a “composite” of the female classmates he lusted after as a conflicted, hormonal boy. “The school didn’t tell me about sex. My parents didn’t tell me about sex. It was a secret. Like, your body gets… you know, you’re 13 or 14, and your body is starting to explode with these feelings. And it’s a secret. So, if it’s a secret, it must be bad, because you’re not supposed to be doing it or thinking about it or feeling like this, you know? So, I’d grown up with these kind of Irish Catholic girls in my community, and yeah, you’re not supposed to touch ’em, but you want to! … It was like, ‘Well, you shouldn’t really be having these feelings.’ But you do, and you want to make it happen. But also you feel terribly guilty because they’re Irish Catholic and you shouldn’t be touching them. So yeah, all of that. But, something good came out of it.”